Soft-on-crime liberals are wringing their hands over the number of Americans in jail. But rather than urge “alternatives to incarceration” or the wholesale opening of jail and prison cells, one answer might be to do something about the media and entertainment industries glorifying violence and the “thug life.”
According to the Justice Department, as reported by AP, seven million American adults are right now in prison, on probation, or on parole. That means one in every 32 Americans is currently being prosecuted or recently released for committing crimes. Of the seven million, 2.2 million were in prison or jail, 4.1 million were on probation, and 784,208 were on parole at the end of 2005.
But here’s the nub: the report also shows, according to AP, that “in the 25-29 age group, 8.1 percent of black men, about one in 13, are incarcerated, compared with 2.6 percent of Hispanic men and 1.1 percent of white men.”
Is this because of racism? There’s no evidence of that. Rather, it’s because too many young blacks resort to a life of crime. And one factor behind that, the evidence clearly shows, is the media.
The media as a whole presents few positive images for young black males to aspire to, while offering a whole slew of negative images to emulate. The multi-platinum rapper Snoop Dogg regularly gets press coverage for brushes with the law. He was recently “arrested for investigation of being a convicted felon in possession of a firearm, possessing cocaine, transporting marijuana and having a false compartment in his vehicle,” AP reported.
In the same article, the AP reports that Snoop Dogg will be arraigned in early December “following his Sept. 27 arrest for investigation of carrying a deadly weapon at John Wayne Airport in Santa Ana?The rapper was convicted in 1990 of cocaine possession and was charged with gun possession after a 1993 traffic stop?(and) He was acquitted of murder in 1996 following the death of an alleged street gang member killed by gunfire from the vehicle in which he was traveling.”
This is one rapper with a significant rap sheet. Yet, this is the role model that young black males are given to emulate.
Even the few positive black male characters on television have criminal connections. On the Fox television show “House,” the black character played by Omar Epps, Dr. Eric Foreman, has a criminal record and is often asked to break into the homes of patients to do medical background checks.
Even those men who could be role models for young black males are often ridiculed and had their very identities as black men questioned. Terms like Uncle Tom and Token have been used to describe and denigrate men who could be their role models.
So where are the leaders of the black community who are speaking out? Jesse Jackson has been busy calling for a boycott on sales of the Seinfeld seventh-season DVD, because of remarks made by one of the cast members at a comedy club in Los Angeles. The campaign has backfired. According to the Washington Post, sales “have shot up 75 percent over Seasons 5 and 6,” which were released the same time last year. But it served Jackson’s purpose-he got a lot of face time on TV.
In his latest cause, Rev. Al Sharpton has been meeting with the New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg and New York Police Commissioner Raymond Kelly about the shooting death of an unarmed black man by undercover police officers. According to the Washington Post, Sharpton sees this recent shooting “as part of a pattern of overzealous city cops gunning down unarmed black men.” The facts are not yet in but Sharpton has already drawn his conclusions and already has the police convicted of a crime. Of course, this is the same Al Sharpton who sided with Tawana Brawley when she falsely accused a group of white men of raping her.
Young black males need positive role models, and for someone to speak out on the incarceration of a generation of young black males, but to put the blame where it belongs-on those who choose a life of crime, and those in the media who glorify it.
With one in every 13 black men between the ages of 25 and 29 in prison, it is time for the media to stop giving black males only negative role models to emulate.
We will also be waiting for Jesse Jackson and Al Sharpton to take on the gangster rappers.